You can now buy your own delivery drone (but it won’t be cheap)

You can now buy your own ready-made delivery drone — as long as you have many thousands of dollars to pay for it. A drone delivery company called A2Z Drone Delivery has launched its latest product, the RDSX delivery drone.

While there is plenty of room for customization, the RDSX is an off-the-shelf product that could make it easy for drone service providers to quickly scale up their delivery capabilities. The drone can carry dual payloads each weighing up to two kilograms on a round trip of up to 18 kilometers.

The evolution of the RDSX delivery drone

The RDSX delivery drone is a dual-payload commercial drone that uses a tethered, free-fall delivery mechanism to bring items to you.

But before the tethered drone, there was just a tether. That’s because — prior to the launch of the RDSX delivery drone — A2Z’s primary product was called the RDS1 (RDS is short for Rapid Delivery System). That was a standalone delivery system designed to be used with the DJI Matrice 600, and it sold for $4,000 as a standalone device, or $12,000 if you wanted it pre-mounted on the DJI Matrice 600 drone.

Leaning into the tether

With the tether mechanism, there’s less concern of rotors hitting someone on the ground. There’s also no worry about the drone needing a place to takeoff and land. For that reason, we’re seeing more delivery drones leaning into the tether.

“Consumers obviously have several concerns about the expansion of drone delivery including the potential for injury and property damage from spinning drone rotors as well as erosion of personal privacy with camera-equipped drones filling the skies,” according to a statement from A2Z.

Among the problems of landing aren’t just accidentally getting too close to a drone, but also rotor noise and concerns with low-flying drones peeking in windows.

Perhaps the most famous example is the delivery drones by Wing, which is a sibling company of Google. Wing, which has conducted more than 100,000 consumer drone deliveries at this point, has its drones slow to a hover over the delivery point. Then, the drones descend vertically to about 23 feet above the ground, upon which they lower your package through a tether-type mechanism. That tether can sense that the package has made contact with the ground, allowing the drone’s hook to release the package automatically.

Related read: 6 things to know about Wing delivery drones

Tethers could also be useful when delivering to locations where a drone can’t land, like dense woods or around powerlines.

How much does the RDSX delivery drone cost?

A2Z isn’t sharing how much it costs, so you can only guess this is a situation where, ‘if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.’

For context, the RDS1, which is just the delivery system, no drone included, ran for $4,000. It would have cost $12,000 for the system mounted to a DJI drone, so you should likely expect to pay something in that range.

“The pricing for the RDSX will scale based on configuration, customizations, how the customer wants to integrate the platform with any existing hardware they may have, etc,” a spokesperson for A2Z told The Drone Girl. “I’m not able to provide a static price. Anyone interested in exploring the RDSX or A2Z’s tethered free-fall technology can reach out to the company directly for a consultation that would help educate initial quotes.”

Add-ons that might increase the price tag include :

  • Extendable radio signal range: You can choose to extend the standard radio and ground station signal range.
  • Optional open-source flight controller: You can opt to purchase the RDSX pre-installed with an open-source flight controller.
  • Optional continuous-charging battery dock: With 32 battery bays, the battery dock is capable of batch-charging four batteries simultaneously, so you might want to buy more.

Who is it for?

For starters, it’s for someone with deep pockets. But A2Z is looking beyond the standard consumer drone deliveries. While A2Z’s tethered free-fall mechanism has been used for consumer deliveries, such as a recent promotion with Coca Cola to deliver drinks to people’s homes, the company is targeting deliveries that might not immediate jump to the average person’s mind.

“A2Z also has interest from customers in the mining industry looking to use the drone to easily retrieve and deliver samples from the vast mines to central labs for testing,” an A2Z spokesperson told The Drone Girl. “A customer in the energy exploration market is looking to use the drone to place and retrieve ground sensors.”

RDSX specs

Here’s what you need to know:

  • It can carry up to two kg on a round trip of up to 18 kilometers (or a single tether up to 30 kilometers).
  • The system features an independent downward-facing LiDAR sensing system to stream continuous data to the onboard firmware which controls the payload’s rapid descent.
  • LiDAR also allows the pilot to visually monitor payloads through flight and delivery.
  • Quick-swap bucket-style batteries limit downtime between flights
  • Can operate in temperatures ranging from -20 to 45 Celsius, in up to 95% humidity, and from elevations up to 4,800 feet.
  • The RDSX’s eight rotor arms, fitted with durable carbon fiber propellers, are able to fold away for easy transport.
  • An onboard parachute limits potential damage
  • You also receive a custom transport case for the drone and accessories

Other safety features include:

  • Emergency payload abandonment allows the pilot to quickly detach the payload from the drone amid flight emergencies
  • Passive payload lock to safeguards against payload loss or tether slippage in case of unforeseen power fluctuations
  • Pre-flight weight check ensures the flight platform is not overloaded and controls payload deceleration
  • Transverse tether winding ensures the tether is tightly woven on the reel to maximize capacity and prevent knotting

And here’s how that tether works:

The integrated A2Z Drone Delivery app combines manual control system operations with an onboard computer and sensor array to manage the package’s controlled-freefall. Once the package has gently stopped on the ground, the RDSX’s Kevlar tether and auto-release mechanism releases the payload before being reeled back up for reuse.

A2Z Drone Delivery began as a drone delivery project at Brown University back in 2016. These days, it’s based in Los Angeles, Calif.

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